What future(s) holds Ars Electronica festival 2011?

Tomorrow me and my colleague Dorien are off to Linz, Austria, where the annual media arts festival Ars Electronica is held since 1979. The Festival addresses questions relating to art, technology and society under different temes every year and this year the festival is organized in collaboration with the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research;  the home of the Large Hadron Collider and actually the place where Sir Tim Berner Lee came up with the WWW) and titled: “Origin: Wie alles beginnt” (Origin: How it all begins).

This will be my fourth visit to the festival and to be honest, I am not as excited by the festival’s description as I have been the other years. It might be that the collaboration with a research organization, giving it overt focus, might kill the inspirational philosophical questions that usually form the core of the festival. For example, last years topic was “Repair” and correspondigly the artworks, installations and performances dealt with new ways of living, return to Do-It-Yourself (DIY) practices, green and self-sustaining environments and addressed the philosophical and material practices that lead to destruction of the world as we know it and pictured new, alternative (not necessarily positive) futures we all might experience. I loved this thought experiment and it would be shame to lose that approach between the various grand technological devices CERN is going to exhibit. It is not only to ‘see stuff‘ why I go to Ars, but also to ‘think about stuff‘. And I don’t want to return back from the festival equipped only with a ‘boys-and-their-toys’ maze about big machines I have seen there.

Sure- the organizers try to dip it all also in some more theoretical and philosophical framework by positioning CERN as the model or prototype of research and innovation facility, and a symbol of humankinds obsession for knowledge, questioning what are the factors and aspects that are needed for innovation; and what is the nature of the process that leads us to advancements. Yet, if a very concrete research organization is setting the field, then I would love to see also a very critical approach to the political history, present and future of this particular organization and what does it say about the science and innovation… 

Will see how it works out. Even if the festival’s theme does not excite me as much, I am still excited about the festival as an overall experience. I know that the Prix Ars, especially with its annimation section, crazy parties and afterparties, or just lovely walks & talks around Linz with friends from Media Tech will deliver it.


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